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Ted Daeschler Addresses Challenges of Communicating Geoscience Research

By Stacy Stanislaw



August 9, 2019

On June 10, the Drexel Libraries welcomed Ted Daeschler, PhD, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Academy of Natural Sciences and Professor in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, to discuss the importance of communicating geosciences research to inspire citizen engagement during the final ScholarSip event of the 2018/2019 academic year.

"Change is a constant,” Daeschler explained during his “food for thought” discussion with the 27 Drexel faculty and professional staff who gathered in the Library Learning Terrace for the event. “And geoscientists explore the Earth’s processes and systems that sustain life—how the Earth changes and the rate of that change. For example, we’ll explore how quickly something like climate change happens because of natural events versus how quickly climate change happens as a result of human activity.”

These “earth detectives” also explore and develop Earth’s natural resources, and their research about the planet helps mitigate, respond to and recover from natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. Geoscience research is invaluable to society, but the importance and benefits of this area of study can be difficult to communicate to the general public.

Geological time and geological rates of change—two foundational concepts in the geosciences—are challenging concepts to understand, particularly since most people have limited exposure to the field in secondary school or higher education.

"What does 100 thousand years look like? What about 100 million years?” Daeschler asked during his session. “We don’t have experience to put that sort of time into our framework, so how do you teach that to the general layperson?”

His solution to this challenge: paleontology.

"Paleontology documents the history of life on earth, and it acts like a gateway to the geosciences,” he went on to explain. “It allows us to talk about changes the earth has gone through in a fun and interesting way. Fossils, for example, provide a visualization of the past. They show how organisms and ecosystems have evolved, and then those stories help us engage the public with the geosciences in general.”

Daeschler, for example, works with transitional fossils (fossilized remains of a life form that exhibits traits common to both an ancestral group and its derived descendant group), and he uses stories from his travels to educate audiences and to grab their attention.

"I was in Antarctica last year, and I try to use that as a story about adventure and exploration to draw people in,” Daeschler said. At the Academy of Natural Sciences, we have lots of venues to share with non-specialists, and one of my personal goals is to help educate as many people as I can about the field. People will listen if you can knit a story out of your research and your experiences.” 

The lively conversation that followed Dr. Daeschler’s session showed that his approach to inspiring discussion and engagement with the geosciences is indeed successful. 


Just Announced: 2019/2020 ScholarSip Series

ScholarSip will return for the 2019-20 academic year with three new sessions that address the theme University and Business Research Collaborations. Each term, a distinguished Drexel professor will offer “food for thought” on the benefits and challenges of conducting and disseminating research when academics collaborate with industry. Details will be announced over the coming weeks. Details will be announced over the coming weeks.

Have recommendations for Drexel researchers to address this theme? Have topics we should consider featuring at a future Libraries event? Send your ideas and feedback to the Libraries’ Communication Manager Stacy Stanislaw at svs22@drexel.edu